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12° Nicosia,
22 October, 2020
 
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Cabinet throws ball in attorney general’s court

Administration to call on chief law officer to form new committee to probe 'Cyprus Papers'

Newsroom

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades is calling on the state’s attorney general to appoint yet another committee to probe golden passport applications to settle a dispute between the auditor general’s office and the interior ministry over the “Cyprus Papers.”

Anastasiades held a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday where it was decided to call on Attorney General George Savvides to appoint a new committee to probe allegations of wrongdoing in the Cyprus Investment Programme. 

The president said the Cabinet’s decision to have a three-member committee appointed to probe allegations based on Al Jazeera reports regarding the Cyprus Investment Programme aimed at “putting an end to unnecessary confrontation” between state agencies and government officials.

According to the Cabinet decision, Savvides is expected to call for the formation of a special committee as well as set the terms for examining CIP cases from 2007 through 31 July 2020.

Savvides, who left his post as justice minister earlier this summer, was serving as justice minister back in November 2019 when the president’s cabinet assigned a three-member committee to look into the investment programme.

A current three-member committee tasked last year with looking into high-risk cases is expected to be hand-delivered at the Presidential Palace on Thursday morning

But following extensive reporting by Al Jazeera, Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides stepped in asking the interior ministry to hand over documents to examine whether tax issues had been properly addressed within specific investments by wealthy foreigners in exchange for a Cypriot so-called “golden passport.”

The interior ministry says it would not deliver documents unless the attorney general’s office issued an opinion verifying the request is within Michaelides’ constitutional authority.

According to Kathimerini Cyprus, the dispute over handling specific documents has caused friction also between Police and Parliament, after law enforcement officials went to the House to request documents.

Police were reportedly looking for possible criminal offences not excluding passport applicants but also wanted information on a possible whistleblower who may have leaked documents without authorization.

Kathimerini’s Marina Economides reported the call on the attorney general to appoint a new three-member committee would be drafted by Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, with media pundits raising questions over the terms and parameters the investigators would need to follow.

Economides also reported that a current three-member committee, which was tasked last year with looking into high-risk cases including some leaked in the media, was expected to reveal findings very soon. The report was expected to be hand-delivered at the Presidential Palace on Thursday morning.

But Demetra Kalogerou, the president of the committee who is also Chairwoman of the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, admitted last week that the cases were handpicked by the ministry and did not include all applications mentioned in the Al Jazeera investigative reports.

Earlier this week, Michaelides said if his office did do not receive the requested files by Friday, September 4, he would take it up with the attorney general.

Political pundits said a possible formation of a new committee could weaken the auditor general’s demand to receive files.

Michaelides insisted previously that awarded citizenships not examined by Kalogerou’s committee did not mean that his office could not expand its own probe both in number of cases as well as time periods.

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